Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Friday, January 15, 2010


During my early use of technology in the early 80's taught me much about hacking and using software that I could alter or even create my own lessons. When I found software that let me run my own content, I was very excited. I still use much of this software today. I chose to spend time incorporating my lessons and my voice into this software, because it would be more personalized for my scholars. They would be reading the words and phrases I am usually using in class. I was able to provide visuals and names to personalize them even more. I also discovered over the years the amount of text online that was in the public domain and even podcasts of texts being read. Access to material for my classroom and my online scholars became the foundation of CyberEnglish. I could do so much more in CyberEnglish that was both online and f2f, then in a f2f class alone. With the advances in software development, we are seeing much more effective and efficient use of technology in schools.

There is an increase in the use of technology in our schools, says a recent PBS survey. This is good news and bad news. As I have said before we are more consumer oriented than producer oriented. When I was examining those early software packages, I would reject those that I couldn't alter or add my own content. I was not happy with the content on some of that software and it was too hard to navigate through good parts of some packages and good parts of other packages. If I had total control of the content then I was going to use that software, because it was an extension of my class and not the product of some developer. Much of the online web based software provides lots of clips that teachers don't have access to in their schools. The Internet is a great repository of film clips, articles, public domain texts, and documents. I love a particular site, LibriVox, that provides recording of thousands of texts for the English class. I also find some podcasts and YouTube valuable sources to augment my lessons. Being able to add multimedia to my classroom is more possible with the Internet than not, especially when one considers costs.

I was intrigued when I read about a Charter school in Utah claiming to be the first school to use online texts, "The Open High School of Utah is believed to be the first secondary school in the nation (perhaps the world) to use learning materials and textbooks that are freely available for anyone's use, remixing and redistribution. Because the materials aren't produced by commercial publishers, they can be tailored to meet students' educational needs, free of copyright or licensing restraints. " I'm not quite sure I agree. Are they speaking about a whole school and solely using online resources? I know in CyberEnglish, I only use online resources and mold my assignments using these online resources and customizing each lesson. I know this is the same for many of my colleagues, too. Despite the claim, a trend to do this because of our access to so many resources online will make access easier and more vast and manipulating the texts is always possible when we use any word processing program or HTML. This power has always been one of my strongest arguments to use online resources, digits, and not textbooks, atoms. Digits are much easier to move around and distribute than atoms.

Another example of how the technology can be used to publish the scholars work and to be used with parents is a neat program in a third grade in California. The teacher is using the ipod to provide lessons and to record the students' responses. Each student can work at hir own pace and what I really like is the teacher can share this with the parents' to show progress. "
'It's also for the parents, too. I'm going to play them during parents conferences so they hear their child's progress,' the teacher said." Technology is not new to this school, "In September, this class was chosen for a pilot program to gauge if students' English comprehension and fluency improved with daily use of the iPod Touch. Oswalt Academy is already using technology in the classrooms, having implemented a One to One Laptop Learning Program two years ago. Currently, fifth through seventh grade students use computers with pre-loaded textbooks and other applications, said Astrid Ramirez, Oswalt's principal. Oswalt was recently named one of eight schools in California as an Apple Distinguished School. " Perhaps one of the problems with the equitable use of technology in schools is that some schools have lots of it, while others are bereft of it. Good technology use begets more technology. With all these pilot programs, how many pilots actually spread to other schools?

Sometimes we need to actually speak to a human or feel the human interaction. Brightstorm has developed a truly unique and friendly math tutor website. The student navigates to the area of study that needs assistance and a video of a teacher appears and explains the function. In addition to math, the user will find help in literature and writing. This site can be a perfect model for what a teacher can do. If a teacher were to videotape a class, that class could be uploaded for future use and for hir own class. Podcasting is a growing tool. What may be something to consider is copyright.

Carnegie Learning has developed a tutor who shows some empathy, based on how the student on the computer responds. Using artificial intelligence to build the software for this empathetic tutor is the product of
University of Massachusetts Amherst and Arizona State University in Tempe. “Human tutors are believed to be the highest form of instruction,” said James C. Lester, a computer scientist who is exploring such ideas at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. “Why? The hypothesis is that there is very strong affective feedback going on. Five years ago, this was something the field would’ve thought was far out, but now it’s getting a lot more resources thrown at it.” HAL from 2001 is echoing in my ears.

I have always been a fan of gaming as an educational tool. I have used many different kinds of game oriented tools over the years with great success. The reason I had success was that the programs combine so many of the multiple intelligences at the same time. A strength assists a weakness and a weakness gets stronger. Now we have research that speaks about the affects of gaming on the brain and learning. All of my anecdotal evidence can now be supplemented by this new research. Let the games begin.

Something we haven't seen really take off is the actual use of real people as telementors. I'd love to see schools of education require all of their students do telementoring while they are students pursuing a degree in teaching. This would provide them with a real hands on application of using the internet as a teacher and would assist schools.

1 comment:

mwm said...


Clarification -- Carnegie Learning and the Cognitive Tutor(R) Math programs are evolved from Carnegie Mellon University.

M. Murrin
Carnegie Learning, Inc.